Pinpointing Disability Accommodation Needs: What Evidence Is Most Relevant?

  • Benjamin J. LovettEmail author
  • Anne L. Bizub


Diagnosticians who recommend educational accommodations for postsecondary students with learning, cognitive, and psychiatric disabilities often reference specific diagnostic test scores as a basis for the recommended accommodations. Moreover, accommodation decision-makers often follow diagnosticians’ lead and/or rely on the diagnostic scores themselves to make and justify accommodation determinations. The present paper considers the ecological validity of these diagnostic test scores, focusing on their generalizability across time, setting, and dimension of performance. A wide variety of research suggests a need for circumspection and care when using diagnostic test scores to make accommodation decisions. Illustrative data are presented showing that scores from diagnostic cognitive tests do not significantly predict students’ ability to access a realistic test. Diagnostic tests should not be unduly criticized, and data from these tests can be helpful, but both clinicians and accommodation decision-makers should carefully consider issues of diagnostic test scores’ ecological validity and make nuanced conclusions about the needs of a client/applicant based on a wide variety of evidence.


Learning disabilities Extra time ADHD Testing accommodations 



The illustrative data in the present paper were from a study funded by a Psi Chi Faculty Advisor Grant to the first author. The opinions as expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the funders.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional). Approval was obtained from the ethics board at the institution where the data was collected.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State University of New York at CortlandCortlandUSA
  2. 2.Duquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA

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